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Why You Need a Buyer's Agent When Purchasing New Construction

Editor’s note: There’s nothing quite like moving into a brand-new home. Pristine appliances, every detail exactly to your taste, ding-free walls, no weird former owner – the appeal of buying new construction is pretty obvious. Every day this week, we’ll offer advice and perspectives on going the new construction route.  

Buying new construction seems simple, right? Just pick out the floor plan you want, choose the perfect lot, and watch it go up. No sellers to deal with, no unexpected repairs that come up during inspection, no drawn-out negotiations. Right?

Not so fast. In any real estate transaction, it’s important to have a professional on your side, even if the process seems straightforward.

“Having your own agent provides a sense of security,” says Seattle-area homeowner Kristy Weaver, who has bought two new construction homes from two different builders. “It gives you some peace of mind, knowing that someone is looking out for your best interest.”

Peace of mind is just one benefit of having an experienced agent along for the ride. Read on for five more reasons you’ll want a local real estate agent by your side when buying a new construction home.

To help you find a reputable builder

“Your agent can rely on their own experience and that of their colleagues to help you find a builder you can trust,” says Portland, OR-based real estate agent Kim Ainge Payne of the Realty Trust Group. “What’s the quality of the workmanship? What kind of warranty do they offer? What’s their track record of resolving issues? Getting a clear understanding in the beginning can alleviate serious headaches down the road.”

To go to bat for you

The timeline for purchasing new construction is typically quite a bit longer than buying an existing home. From the first time you visit the sales center, to choosing your layout, construction, inspections, and finally closing, there are ample opportunities for things to go sideways – think construction delays, permit issues, and financing concerns. An experienced buyer’s agent can help you navigate all of these sticky situations.

To help you review your contract

Even if you’ve purchased a home before, the contract for new construction is a whole different animal, and an experienced agent can help you make sure you understand everything, from floor plans to earnest money requirements, deadlines for requesting changes, and timelines for completion.

“It’s crucial to have a third party who represents your interests in the transaction,” says Dmitry Yusim, a Seattle-area agent who has represented new construction buyers. “A good agent can add the proper addendums to protect you if something falls through.”

To assist with negotiations

Buyers’ agents know the areas where you’ll find the most wiggle room when it comes to negotiations.

“Builders are trying to keep their sales price up so that the next buyers through the door see the higher closing price,” explains agent Britt Wibmer of Windermere Real Estate in Seattle. “They’d much rather throw in closing costs or additional upgrade credits.”

To point you toward smart upgrade choices

Builders will offer you endless options for finishes and upgrades, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. A seasoned real estate agent can recommend the upgrades that will get you the most bang for your buck in resale value, suggest finishes that might be cheaper to do on your own, and help you avoid over-improving, which can jeopardize your appraisal before closing.

Even though a friendly sales representative will greet you with a smile the moment you walk through the door of the sales center, don’t forget that they work for the builder. Bring your own agent with you starting with your first visit – in fact, many builders require your agent to register with them from the very beginning in order for them to be involved in the process and receive their commission.

With a professional you trust by your side, you’ll rest easy knowing someone is there to protect your money, your time, and your new home.

Wondering if new construction is right for you? Search new construction listings, and get more home-buying tips and resources to help you decide.

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Inauguration Anchor Scott Pelley Lists Colonial Mansion

When Scott Pelley isn’t reporting for “60 Minutes” or anchoring CBS News’ all-day coverage of the inauguration, he’s been kicking back in his classic colonial home in Darien, CT.

The basement is his “Darien Bureau,” the local newspaper reports. It’s where he composes and narrates tracks for stories on “60 Minutes.” A former White House correspondent, Pelley has long covered the country’s biggest news, from the attack on the World Trade Center to the front lines of climate change in Antarctica and the Arctic.

That basement can now inspire a new owner. Pelley has put his home on the market for $3.985 million.

The 5-bedroom, 7-bath home sits on more than two acres in the Connecticut countryside, with bucolic views from almost every room. And it’s rich with fireplaces.

You enter the home through a two-story foyer that boasts double grand staircases and offers access to gracious living room with a fireplace, a formal dining room and a gourmet kitchen. Alongside the kitchen is a breakfast nook surrounded by windows and a sitting room with its own fireplace.

A separate family room features built-ins, a third fireplace and Palladian windows with French doors that open onto the vast back yard with a pond and a picturesque footbridge. The fireplace in the cozy, wood-paneled library is perfectly situated for staying toasty while watching the snow fall.

Like any self-respecting colonial home, it’s filled with hardwood floors, columns and crown moldings. The spacious master suite includes walk-in closets the size of some bedrooms, a spa-like bathroom, a balcony and, of course, a fireplace.

The listing agent is Doug Milne of Houlihan Lawrence.

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Essential Cheat Sheets for Photoshop, Illustrator, GIMP and Sketch

Photoshop, Illustrator, Gimp and Sketch are fantastic applications. They’re all packed full of many essential tools and features that you need to use on a daily basis, but trying to remember all of the shortcuts to speed up the design process is no easy task.

There are many ways to improve productivity, and there are many ways of speeding up the design process, but nothing quite beats keyboard shortcuts. Although, trying to remember them though all, is not easy.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. In this short article, we’ve collected all of the keyboard shortcut cheatsheets for Photoshop, Illustrator, GIMP and Sketch.app. Just print them out, bookmark them, or save them to your mobile device. Here they are:

Photoshop Cheat Sheet (Cheetyr.com) Download Here
Photoshop Cheatsheet (WebPageFx.com) Download Here
Photoshop Keyboard Shortcut Cheatsheet Download Here
Photoshop Keyboard Preset Shortcuts Download Here
Adobe Photoshop Quick Reference Guide Download Here
Photoshop Toolbox Reference Download Here
Black & White Cheatsheet For Photoshop Download Here
Photoshop Secret Shortcuts Download Here
Adobe Photoshop Elements Cheat Sheet Download Here
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Shortcuts Cheatsheet Download Here
Illustrator Cheatsheet Download Here
Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts (Windows) Download Here
Illustrator Keyboard Shortcuts (Mac) Download Here
Adobe Illustrator Shortcuts Download Here
Gimp Quick Reference Card Download Here
The Gimp Cheatsheet Download Here
Sketch.app Cheatsheet (Cheetyr.com) Download Here
Sketch.app Cheatsheet (Dribbble.com) Download Here

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Step Inside the Spendiest Home in the Land

What’s 38,000 square feet and comes with a gallery of exotic cars and a staff of seven? This $250-million listing in Bel Air, a luxury extravaganza that’s part resort, part 40-seat Dolby theater and part helipad. (Well, there isn’t a permit for the helipad, so it’s described instead as a rooftop art installation featuring a helicopter from the ’80s television series “Airwolf.”)

Fashion designer-turned-developer Bruce Makowsky, who sold a Beverly Hills spec home to Minecraft creator Markus Persson for $70 million, is upstaging himself by a wide margin here.

“It just reeks of quality and looks absolutely spectacular,” he told Bloomberg. “It gives you the feeling you can only get if you go to heaven.”

The aim is to “exceed the demands of the super wealthy,” according to a press release. “This home was curated for the ultimate billionaire who wants the best of everything that exists in life,” Makowsky said.

And how. The billionaire can feast on all the good things in three gourmet kitchens and five bars while lounging on 17,000 square feet of entertainment decks. When the gluttony is over, there’s a fitness center, a four-lane bowling alley and an 85-foot infinity pool to work it out.

The mega-mansion is filled with artwork, from Lamborghini wall clocks to a much-larger-than-life representation of a Leica camera. And let’s not forget the kids, who can revel by the wall of candy dispensers and play a champagne-themed pinball machine.

All of this grandeur sits in the hills above Los Angeles, offering expansive views from the 2017 power-wealth version of paradise.

If this home sells anywhere near its list price, it will handily break the record set by two $100-million sales last year – another L.A. mega-mansion, sold to an investor, and the Playboy Mansion, which first appeared on the market at $200 million.

The listing agents are Branden and Rayni Williams of Hilton & Hyland and Ben Bacal of Rodeo Realty.

Tour the sun-drenched neighborhood.

Photos courtesy of Berlyn Photography.

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How Presidents Make the White House Their Own

Franklin Roosevelt had his swimming pool. Harry Truman built the first White House bowling alley. George H.W. Bush installed tennis and basketball courts.

Our personal lives are reflected in our homes, and the White House is no different. Since 1800, when John Adams moved in with his wife, Abigail, the residence has been a window into the way presidents and their families relax, exercise and play.

For more than a century, New Year’s Day was an open house for anyone who wished to visit the White House — which has a Zestimate of $397.9 million. Here’s your chance to take a tour through the history of the country’s most famous home.

Early days

The White House was destroyed by a fire that British soldiers set during the War of 1812, after which James Madison restored it almost precisely to its former glory using original architect James Hoban.

It was called the Presidential Palace and the Presidential Mansion before it became known as the White House, a moniker Theodore Roosevelt formalized by engraving it on his stationery in 1901.

A beacon of work-from-home efficiency from the start, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue houses the Oval Office (created by William Howard Taft), staffers’ offices and gracious rooms for entertaining, along with an upstairs area where the president spends time with his family. And those families make their mark, too.

Growing pains

As the country grew, so did the number of people working at the White House. New rooms and wings were added, but the expansion happened in such a hurry that by the 1940s, when Harry Truman noticed the floor of his study vibrating, the building required a massive renovation. The structure was gutted, although the exterior remained the same.

Jacqueline Kennedy undertook a sweeping remodel in order to restore a sense of history to the White House. “It just seemed to me such a shame we came here to find hardly anything of the past in the house, hardly anything before 1902,” she said during a nearly hour-long television tour of her changes.

During that tour, Jackie Kennedy gives a history of some of the most famous rooms in the White House, including the East Room, a reception and event hall for which Mary Todd Lincoln once bought a carpet so pricey that it irked her husband. The East Room eventually became crowded with false beams and potted palms, a situation Theodore Roosevelt rectified by returning it to its simple, classic lines.

Bison, not lions

Roosevelt also renovated the State Dining Room, enlarging it and hanging stuffed animal heads all around. He also ordered a new fireplace mantel to replace one decorated with carvings of lions’ heads, which he pointed out was not an American animal. His mantel displayed carvings of bison heads, instead.

That same fireplace bears a quote from the first letter written from the White House, from John Adams to Abigail: “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

In that major 1902 renovation, the original East Wing was created. It grew in 1942, when Franklin Roosevelt created an underground bomb shelter, and situated a home movie theater and offices above it.

Jackie Kennedy and Laura Bush both revamped the famous Lincoln Bedroom – which was never actually Lincoln’s bedroom, but rather his office. A glass case in the room contains a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed there. Truman turned the room into a shrine to Lincoln, furnishing it with pieces from Lincoln’s presidency.

Inspired by gardens around official residences in Europe, the Kennedys also remade the Rose Garden into a beautiful space with room for press briefings and other events. And President Kennedy’s father commissioned a scenic mural painted on the wall of the pool.

Getting a move on

The first White House swimming pool was installed in 1933. It was an indoor model, financed through a public campaign and intended as physical therapy for Franklin Roosevelt’s poliomyelitis.

Richard Nixon covered the pool and built a press briefing room in its place. Shortly thereafter, Gerald Ford built an outdoor pool that remains today.

Nixon favored bowling to swimming, and installed a single-lane bowling alley in the basement. But that was not the White House’s first: Other lanes, located where the Situation Room is today, had been given to Truman in 1947.

Not to be outdone in the realm of exercise, George H.W. Bush installed tennis and basketball courts. But the latter was too small for a full-court game, so Barack Obama adapted the tennis court so it could be used for both.

Gracious hosting

For all the official business that takes place there, the White House is also a high-stakes entertaining venue. It has its own flower shop, visitors’ foyer and diplomatic reception room. And there’s a little-mentioned chocolate shop for Willy Wonka-style confections.

At Christmas, it takes a full week of 11-hour days for at least 50 volunteers — one from each state — to deck the White House halls. The East Room alone has four 20-foot trees.

While rooted in a centuries-old building, the White House has evolved, helping to create diplomacy, host friends and dignitaries, and further the idea of democracy itself in a uniquely American space that the first family also happens to call home.

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Internal vs External Motivation

But, then again, motivation is basically divided into two parts, which might lead to ask how internal vs.

  • external motivation differs?

    Internal vs External Motivation

    Motivation  can be either external (extrinsic) and internal (intrinsic).

    External motivation – the driving force that triggers you in achieving your goal.

    Such as:

    • Money
    • Prize
    • A simple smile and encouragement.

    Internal motivation – the force that leads you to achieve a goal because of personal satisfaction or desire

    Examples are:

    • Putting up your own business
    • Participating in a competition

    Trophies, medals, money, discounts, grades, entrance to programs or schools, new clothes and losing weight are all examples of extrinsic motivators. These are used to motivate individuals to pursue their goals.

    Here are some more examples of external motivation:

    • Doing an article for a specific website in exchange for a high salary
    • Joining a web design competition just to win a brand new iPad Air
    • A company needs an employee who is a research addict.
    • Doing a logo design for a very prestigious company
    • A company looking for a versatile IT enthusiast

    motivated

    These are examples of internal motivation:

    • Determination to get a college education
    • Putting up  a computer cafe
    • Working for a company as a blogger
    • Participation in an online game competition
    • Pursuing a Master’s degree in Computer Science

    Intrinsically motivated, you are able to feel some enjoyment and personal satisfaction and develop the skill and competency that you want. It’s a personal accomplishment. It is not about getting something in return.

    Ways To Get Motivated Externally

    • Disregard What Is NOT Important. Spending so much time on insignificant things is useless.Wasting your time on nonsense is crap. By doing so will give you a time to focus and be productive. Consider only the things that would be beneficial to you.
    • Reject Boredom. Boredom means being empty. Think of things that inspire you, things that make you smile. Spend your quality time with really what is worth the effort.
    • Laugh a Lot. Spend some time for yourself. Treat yourself to a movie, go swimming, invite friends for a house party. Celebrate. Having a great time could be a great source of stress reliever. Moreover, you get inspirations from it.
    • Stay Fit. For some, this is a difficult task to do for they are timid. Pump up irons, jog and do some push ups, go running around your house. It will eventually disturb your physical body, killing laziness and giving you a warm feeling.

    exercise

    • Make a  Playlist. Have a list of your favorite songs. Try downloading some of it from Top Billboards charts or from iTunes.  Listening to music can inspire you and get that awesome mood to keep everything on the go. Just don’t turn up the volume to recreate the scene. The only thing better than silence is good music.

    playlist

    • Avoid Energy Leeches. Braggers, bummers, killjoys- these people are all sucking up your energy. Don’t get caught under their destructive domain. Isolating yourself from these parasites can set your mood successfully.
    • Make Time to be Creative. Discover a new passion. When it comes to building your creativity, Why not try web designing. Take some risks. While your efforts may not lead to success every time, your new found talent will benefit you in the future.

    busy-designer

    • Support an Advocacy. Support a cause in your neighborhood. Lend a hand. Attend seminars. Go tree planting. Mother nature will surely be crying for your tremendous effort and generosity.
    • Have a Break. Call or invite a friend to watch the latest blockbuster movie. Grab a bag of popcorn and soda and enjoy each other’s company.
    • Diet Shift. How about changing your diet? Explore and try to devour some new recipes. Break your usual meal.  If you love meat, then, it is your time to become vegetarian. Eat and live well. For some people eating is an effective stress reliever.

    eat-healthy

    Ways To Get Motivated Internally

    • Think Fun and Variety. Work hard, play hard. It’s nice to think that you are enjoying what you are doing. You no longer feel that it is work.. You are exactly doing both! Monotony is a killer. Motivation comes from doing what is fun. Be happy.

    office-fun

    • Make or Deal with Yourself. This avoids procrastination and getting things done. You just simply tell yourself that if you finished a certain task, you treat yourself for some mouth-watering ice cream or a walk in the beach.
    • Be Efficient. Take time to rest and think of ways how  would you become productive. Look for some ways how to get things done in minimal time. Every minute counts.
    • Clean Your Room. Try giving your room a total  make-over. Throw some old stuff out of your room. Embrace the unconventional and new. Start fresh. This gives you a sense of beginning.

    cleaning-room

    • Always Think of Your Achievements. Consider your success rather than your failures. It gives you a satisfying relief recalling what you did that made other people proud of you.
    • Generate Anticipation. Set a date in the future about something. Make that the start date and get excited about that date. This would make you look forward about the date.

    calendar

    • Master a Skill. Mastering a skill tends to give you a reason to be hooked on it and helps you to think more of other possible and creative ways to enhance it. This is where inspiration comes in.
    • Try Befriending Courage and Altruism. Having the courage to do things makes an individual pursue and finish something. It’s their desire. Pair it with the feeling that show motivation to help other people and not being selfish.
    • Believe in yourself. Trusting yourself that you can do it unleashes your adrenaline into a high level. This helps you develop the vigor and the power to move on.

    top-of-mountain

    • Introspect. Try looking at yourself in the mirror. Close your eyes and imagine yourself alone. Try to ask yourself questions that  would make you feel happy. In your solitude, you can focus on yourself.

    How Do You Hold on to Your Motivation?

    Holding on to your motivation is a little bit exhausting. We need to find ways to overcome it. Try some of these.

    cliff-hang

    • Try setting a goal. This is very important. Divide your goals into several minor goals, each goal leading to your major goal. This will also help you see your goal if it’s feasible or not.
    • Understand what you are doing and acquire the habit of always getting to the finish line.
    • Socialize with achievers and associate yourself with motivated individuals. Share your interest with them.
    • Never entertain the idea of procrastination. This leads to being timid.
    • Look at your goals in a wider perspective with a feeling of joy and positivity.
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    How to Handle Long-Distance House Hunting Like a Champ

    Searching for a house locally is not without its difficulties. Add hundreds or even thousands of miles to the equation, and it becomes infinitely more complicated.

    Though long-distance house hunting has its unique challenges, it’s not impossible. In fact, with the right agent and the convenience of modern technology, it’s never been easier to buy a house remotely.

    Here are a few critical factors to keep in mind when you find yourself in a home search from afar.

    Do your homework

    When it comes to long-distance home shopping, “the Internet is your friend,” remarks Meghann Shike of Synergy Realty in Nashville. “You know the neighborhoods you live around, but you know nothing about your new one. You don’t know where the mall is, the [grocery store], or the schools.”

    Though nothing can substitute checking out the neighborhood in person, Shike recommends looking up commute times to work, crime rates in the area, and, most importantly, how the schools rank. Even if you don’t have children or don’t plan to have children, it’s still good to know the quality of the schools for resale purposes.

    One of the biggest pieces of the long-distance house-hunting puzzle, however, is to make sure you’re researching who the best local real estate agents are. It’s always crucial to hire an agent you trust, but with a long-distance search the agent can make or break the experience.

    “You’re going to want someone local on the ground – someone who is very familiar with the city, neighborhood, and prices,” Shike says. “You need to get a feel for how that person operates. Are they available to talk to you? You’re going to have more questions than you realize, and your agent is going to need to be there to answer them.”

    Have a travel budget

    When Kyle and Samantha Steele found out they were going to be moving from Oklahoma City to Columbus, OH for Kyle’s new job, the couple looked at listings online, got in touch with real estate agents, and picked an upcoming weekend to house hunt in person.

    The Steeles’ agent showed them multiple houses, but nothing was quite right. Then they found out that many of the older neighborhoods in the area didn’t have great access to high-speed Internet. That’s when they decided to build.

    Their agent was instrumental in guiding them on their short house-hunting weekend, and in finding a builder. “[Our agent] basically helped us with everything, every step of the way,” Kyle states. “When we couldn’t find anything, she helped us find model homes in the area we’re building in, and showed us three different model homes. She answered questions, and helped us find the building company. She even helped us find a hotel for the weekend.”

    Inevitably, unexpected appointments came up during the building process that required one of the Steeles to be present. “We had to make an appointment to meet with the design studio to pick out the floors and the carpet,” Samantha remarks. “So far, I’ve been to Ohio twice.”

    The couple advises long-distance house hunters to prepare and plan ahead, especially for last-minute travel. “Be flexible,” Kyle says. “Make sure you have a few thousand dollars in reserve that you can spend on plane tickets and a hotel – because you will have to go back and forth.”

    From the agent perspective, Shike recommends planning a house-hunting trip that’s at least four to five days long, so you’re not cramming in tons of showings that you won’t remember at the end of the day.

    Know what you want

    When you’re in the market for a home, you should always have a running list of features you want, but it’s especially crucial when you’re buying from a distance.

    “I like to tell my clients to do a ‘top five.’” Shike says. “What’s your non-negotiable? Is it being able to step out the front door to walk your dogs? Do you want to walk your kids to school?”

    Knowing exactly what you want out of a house and location allows your agent to help you narrow down neighborhoods and homes more easily, and assist you in making an offer quickly, which is especially important in a fast-moving market.

    “Buyers need to get over the fear of writing an offer when they haven’t seen the house in person,” remarks Shike. “I can video chat our way through the house, but I can’t get you on a plane [to get here] in the same time the local people can who are shopping.”

    Overcome remote home-buyer jitters

    For those buyers who are nervous about making an offer sight unseen, Shike says there is the possibility of adding a clause in the contract that the sale is contingent on the buyer seeing it.

    Of course, there is also always the option of renting first before you take the plunge. “You could rent for the short term or get a six-month lease, which is enough time to get settled in your job or routine,” recommends Shike. “That can be nice for buyers who are a little more anxious about the process – to relieve that anxiety.”

    Overall, buying a house from a distance shouldn’t necessarily be looked at as a negative experience. In fact, Shike believes it can give many shoppers new opportunities, and buyers are often more excited when purchasing long distance.

    “It can be a nice change of pace for people,” Shike adds. “Another benefit to moving long distance is a fresh start: a new neighborhood, new culture, new people, and new experiences everywhere.”

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    Homes for Sale in the Hottest Real Estate Markets for 2017

    Moderately sized cities in the middle of the country are now among the strongest housing markets in the United States –  with Nashville, TN topping the list, according to Zillow research on the hottest housing markets for 2017.

    With strong economic growth, plenty of job opportunities, and safe communities to raise families, these cities are giving the traditionally popular coasts a run for their money.

    Here’s a look at what the market offers in the top 10 hottest markets in the country for 2017.

    Nashville, TN

    3132 Jonesboro Dr, Nashville, TN 37214
    For sale: $234,900

    This 3-bedroom, 2-bath home offers stately curb appeal and an updated yet rustic interior, making it the perfect place to hang your cowboy hat in Music City. The home features a spacious open concept living and dining space, and an additional den complete with a corner fireplace. The home’s master suite is large and luxurious, and includes a spacious, remodeled bathroom.

    See more homes for sale in Nashville.

    Seattle, WA

    5652 25th Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98106
    For sale: $519,800

    Spacious and bright, this 4-bedroom, 2-bath Seattle home has all the character of a home built in 1932, but with all modern amenities and updates. The home is perfect for entertaining, boasting a large kitchen with stainless steel appliances and ample storage, and a cozy living area that has plenty of room for a dining room table. Best of all, this house is just two blocks away from public transportation.

    Find similar homes in Seattle.

    Provo, UT

    160 N 1080 E, Provo, UT 84606
    For sale: $206,900

    Enjoy stunning mountain views from your own backyard. This 2-bedroom, 1-bath home’s extremely cheerful and bold exterior includes a small covered front porch on which to sip your morning coffee. Hardwood floors in the bedrooms give this vintage jewel a sleek and modern appearance. Bonus: This home is close to BYU and nearby attraction Seven Peaks.

    Discover more Provo homes.

    Orlando, FL

    4816 Thorpe Ave, Orlando, FL 32804
    For sale: $150,000

    This mid-century charmer boasts a large backyard and a roomy kitchen, and is just a short drive to downtown. The home features 3 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, and has additional space in the converted garage – perfect for an additional living area or even an office. The chevron-patterned tile throughout the kitchen and living room adds a modern touch to the space.

    Find more homes for sale in Orlando.

    Salt Lake City, UT

    755 S 400 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
    For sale: $290,000

    With stunning original 1896 hardwood floors, a detached studio in the backyard, and gorgeous curb appeal, this 2-bedroom, 2-bath Salt Lake City home is full of possibilities. The home is an urban oasis – with a chicken coop, fire pit, and garden boxes – that’s just a short walk to downtown Salt Lake City. Beautiful original details make this home a treasured place to call home.

    Research more Salt Lake City homes for sale.

    Portland, OR

    6100 NE Simpson St, Portland, OR 97218
    For sale: $274,900

    Perfectly polished and updated, this 3-bedroom, 1-bath Portland home is completely move-in ready. Hardwood floors, crown molding, and large closets would lure any home buyer, but the galley style kitchen with soft-close cabinets, quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, and gray subway tile backsplash is really the star of the home. A large bedroom upstairs offers enough space for a sitting room, and is the perfect place to retreat at the end of the day.

    Take a look at more Portland homes for sale.

    Knoxville, TN

    2309 Washington Ave, Knoxville, TN 37917
    For sale: $159,900

    Vintage architectural details, a spacious sun room, and classic curb appeal are just a few of the great assets of this Knoxville home. The 4-bedroom, 3-bath craftsman displays unique features everywhere you look, from the restored original hardwood floors, white wainscoting in one of the bathrooms, and beautiful woodwork throughout.

    See more Knoxville homes for sale.

    Ogden, UT

    1674 E 22nd St, Ogden, UT 84401
    For sale: $225,000

    Situated on a large lot with scenic views, this 3-bedroom, 2-bath Ogden home has been remodeled with style. Picture perfect at every turn, the home has laminate hardwood floors in the bright and open concept living space. The kitchen is a home chef’s dream, featuring a white subway tile backsplash, black granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, and a spacious sink.

    View more homes for sale in Ogden.

    Denver, CO

    1268 Harrison St, Denver, CO 80206
    For sale: $399,000

    You’ll score big with this 3-bed, 2-bath home in the Mile-High City. Highlights include hardwood floors, a statement piece fireplace in the living room, and a large, updated kitchen. A completely finished and cozy basement adds to the home’s already spacious living areas, and gives you plenty of room when guests come to visit.

    Search for more homes in Denver.

    Sacramento, CA

    1468 Oregon Dr, Sacramento, CA 95822
    For sale: $300,000

    Quaint details like a sliding bathroom barn door and an enclosed breezeway, which makes for a great studio or office, set this 2-bed, 1-bath bungalow apart. The home encourages California living, with a large backyard that has a boat/RV hookup and plenty of space for your next barbecue.

    Find your next home in Sacramento.

    Shopping for a home? Check out our Home Buyers Guide for tips and resources.

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    Mobile SEO – Can You Optimize for User Experience and Google at the Same Time?

    There is no need to prioritize because you have to please both Google and your users, a practice that comes highly recommended. In doing the process, you don’t need to invest in an insane amount of resources into the process where the return might make or break you and your online solution.

    By adopting these two requirements, you will be able to rank higher in Google and people will be able to find you much easier than before. With the great web user experience you give your visitors, they will want to recommend you to others.

    user

    Start with the user.

    Start With The User

    There is no need to prioritize, as mentioned earlier, but you need to start somewhere. Focusing on the experience, you give your users is a good starting point for your web solution whether it is a simple website, a web application, or a complex back-end software.

    At the base of each of your projects, you have to consider the user. Without the user, you won’t move forward regardless of how much you try to. You’ve heard of the term User Experience (or UX) before, but what does it mean for your product?

    As much as I hate to tell you this, it depends. Users will not put a price on the same elements in two different web solutions. On top of this, your audience will also react differently to what your competitor has although your product does basically the same.

    Finding out what your audience reacts positively to is such a complex matter to discuss that it should have its own article; therefore, we won’t dive too much into what’s in the mind of your users. However, whatever your business is, the lack of investing into user experience will always backfire. Always! Luckily for you, wherever your users come from and whatever their pursuit is, they will always appreciate these following elements that will give them a great product experience.

    responsive

    Nowadays you must have a responsive website.

    Be Responsive Already – Have A Responsive Website!

    You’ve probably heard this thousands of times. Unfortunately, I still see so many examples out there of websites that are not responsive yet. It has been more than three years since media queries have become W3C standards but why hasn’t everybody adopted them yet? If it’s something that gets me out of my mind, that is ignorance for the widely accepted standards. Don’t be ignorant with your web solution because you’re playing with the chances of your own project.

    I have a difficult time believing that you don’t know much about responsive web design yet. But if you really don’t (dude, seriously?), get this book. Read it from cover to cover, then read it again. It’s been written relatively recently and it’s considered as “responsive web design 101” for 2015.

    responsive text

    Do you know how readable your website is on mobile or tablet?

    Responsive Design Typography

    Yes, I’m still holding on to this responsive madness topic. Typography is such an important part of a website that ignoring it will score you some negative points with your readers. It is often easy to read text on desktop but God I’ve squinted my eyes a lot in the past years trying to decode simple text on mobile. I hate that, don’t make me do it – ever again! I will leave your site quicker than a Ferrari in pole position without any chance of returning ever again.

    Improving typography for portable devices is not that big of a deal. If you don’t have basic typography training, it is always a safe bet to increase the font size and the line-height.

    Never use a font that is smaller than 14px on mobile (get used to the idea of having at least 16px, no more than 8-9 words per line) and line height that is at least 18px. This will make the text easier to read. Keep headlines short and make it clear. They are headlines, so you need to use big font size and bold with a maximum of four words per line.

    Web fonts are quite the big deal in typography, and I advise you to make use of them. They will save you money and time plus; they are SEO-friendly. Just to make sure there is a check on everything, always have a fall-back typeface in case a browser doesn’t download custom web fonts.

    When you write copy, make sure to break paragraphs into smaller chunks of text. Take a look at the image below and think of which would you rather read should you end up with only one choice.

    Text comparison

    The text is the same, the only difference being good formatting and better typography on the right.

    The Art Of Negative Space

    This article is not supposed to be a crash course in graphic design, but there are so many things a good graphic designer can do to improve the user experience of a website. One of them is using negative space, as this allows the human eye to rest.

    Your web page will not feel as heavy if you employ this very well and I advise you to get a good graphic designer to take a look at your website if you feel that it currently is “too heavy” at a quick scan.

    contactform

    Create live validation of the input fields.

    Have Contact and Checkout Forms That Work

    Web forms can range from sign-up forms and contact forms to input fields in a check-out process or even a search box. Make sure they work. You’ve probably already checked the code behind ten times and tested it. The forms work as they should. But do they really work?

    I’ve got no doubts your code does just what it is supposed to do, but this is not just about the back-end. The user doesn’t care about your code. The user wants the forms to work, to give him feedback when feedback is needed and to fill them out as quickly as possible.

    By the number of websites doing it poorly, error handling in user forms must be one of the most challenging problems there is – up there with landing on Mars and figuring out teleportation. Let me tell you a secret: it’s actually not that hard.

    One thing you can do to ensure less confusion is create live validation of the input fields. That means if you need a phone number from me, make sure I can’t submit the form if there is any kind of text in the field that are not digits. Additionally, if you need a number in a specific format, don’t ask me to write it that way. I don’t care if you need the number in US format but let me write a ten-character number and format it yourself with a snippet of code. How hard can it be?

    If I submit the form and there is an error, you need to let me know of the exact error and what I can do to fix it. Don’t – I repeat, don’t! – ask me to fill in all the fields again. That’s where you lost a potential client.

    Error handling in forms

    Example of error handling in mobile app.

    Avoid confusion in the forms by using clear language, clear placement and clear colors. The example above is an almost perfect one. There is no doubt about what you need to correct and the error message can’t be missed.

    It would be perfect if the error message would also point out the error: Please enter a valid email address. Unfortunately “.xom” is not a valid domain. It would require more code, but users will have no doubt understand why the error appeared in the first place.

    If you want to get better at handling error messages in input fields, Christian Holst wrote a great article three years ago about this which is still relevant today.

    It’s well known that drop-off rates for long web forms are huge, but they are avoidable. If a user starts to fill in a form, it’s because he wants to. If he stops before he is done, you’re at fault. Most of the time it is because you ask for a big investment from them – bigger than their return.

    Would you subscribe to a newsletter if the form requires you to fill in the name, email, address and credit card information? No way in hell. But you would gladly give all these information away if you buy something online. It’s all about keeping a balance between what you ask for and what you give in return.

    Shorter forms are always more successful.

    In fact, studies show that shorter forms can even convert over 150% better than their longer counterparts. Think about it for a while before adding a new field to your form.

    Use SVG Image Format

    Use SVG In Your Websites.

    Use SVG Whenever You Can

    Some of you might not know what an SVG image is, so I will explain it to you very briefly. SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics and, as the name says, it represents a vector image that can be scaled up an down according to the screen it is viewed on.

    SVG works very well with CSS and is perfect for responsive web design. Together with responsive typography and responsive layouts it creates a great viewing experience for the user regardless of what device they are on. SVG images are better than normal, rasterized images and even better than font icons simply because they can quickly adapt to the environment while still looking great.

    Moreover, with font icons you are limited to a single color, while SVG files are much more adaptable when it comes to the colors.

    You can use SVG graphics in pretty much everything: logos, UI elements, graphs, icons and many others. SVG is really the future and deserves an article of its own. Luckily, there’s a great one written by the team of Design Your Way.

    Check On Design.. Now What Else?

    Let me put it down for you: UX is not only design. Remember this. Design is just a part of this big spectrum of elements. There are many things you can do to improve the UX that do not necessarily have something to do with design. It is easy to confuse the two, because most things you create express themselves through visual queues. A good example is the navigation.

    navigation

    Put special attention to navigation. Make sure it works.

    Design Effective Navigation Menu

    The navigation menu has to be, without any doubt, the first thing visitors see. The navigation and the logo. Users need to know where they are and where they can go.

    A website with poor navigation is like a complex freeway structure without signs. It might be cool to drive your Tesla on it with 175 km/h, but not knowing which exit to take quickly turns into a bit of a problem.

    As the starting point of a website, the navigation has to be simple and clean. Don’t cram a lot of unnecessary information into it and at the same time, don’t be vague about it. You can’t afford to confuse your users.

    Sometimes it is not that easy to keep your navigation simple; look at Amazon. However, most web designers never get the chance to work on such a complex system, therefore keep in mind: simple navigation is the best navigation there is. Some very simple tips are:

    • to keep the main navigation at the top right (logo on the left)
    • limiting the number of options to no more than 6
    • using short and descriptive words (“Contact” instead of “Hit us up”)
    • having the navigation in the footer if the pages are long and having a navigation that is easy to find and clickable if you are on a portable device.

    Other things you can do are quite straightforward. I advise you not to make use of any kind of sneaky tactics or redirects in order to get something you want from the user. He will find out and leave and this will only make him not want to recommend your website.

    Badly implemented pop-overs are also something that annoys me as much as anything else. A few days ago I was reading this article on my iPhone from a worldwide-known online magazine. A pop-up came up telling me about cookie usage. That’s fair enough. But there was no button to accept or to cancel. There was no way to exit that pop-up. I’ve clicked on it, I swiped, I pinched, I did everything there is to do.

    Actually, I did more than I should have, because the website redirected me to another page (it was probably me clicking on something else without realizing because of the frustration). Now that was a really bad experience. A few seconds after… surprise: the overlay slowly disappeared on its own.

    How hard would it have been for them to let me know from the start that this overlay will fade out in 10 seconds? Not much harder than a single line of code, but they still left it out and frustrate me instead.

    Depending on who your audience is, there are probably some other tips I could write about but it would take a while. An in-depth analysis is on the table for an article a bit further down the road but you should be set for now. If you master these first tips, you are halfway through to a successful web solution.

    Now, for the second part, what do those darn Google robots want from you?

    happygoogle

    Do you know what Google wants from you?

    Part 2. Make Google Happy

    It is not only important to make the user happy, it is also important to make sure Google ranks your website well, otherwise, nobody will find you. You will notice, however, how following some of the tips in the first part of the article will also help with the second part.

    Make Your Website Responsive (again)

    According to many sources online, including Social Media Today and Google itself, it is highly recommended to have a responsive web design for your website. Starting April 21st 2015, Google is going to make some small changes to its search algorithm making it easier for users to find mobile content.

    Mobile friendliness is something Google looks very seriously into and although nobody actually said that Google will rank mobile better than desktop results, many experts believe this is the way the search engine is heading to. With more people browsing from mobile than desktop, it goes without saying that this is the right way to go.

    Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji was quoted saying in a Google Webmaster Help thread that they do not rank mobile better, but they prefer it because it is:

    “easier to maintain, it’s future-friendly and we see less configuration errors with RWD (faulty redirects or bad user-agent detection for instance)”

    By creating a website that is responsive, you make both your users happy but also Google, and this is rule number 1 to keep in mind.

    Don’t worry about your PageRank. A website that is responsive is better than a website which redirects the users to a m dot version (something like m.1stwebdesigner.com – a practice that was very popular in the beginning of the 2000s). Although the video is one year and a half old, Matt Cutts from Google explains below why.

    speed

    How fast is your website?

    Make Your Website Load Faster

    Google loves quick websites, it is as simple as that. Google itself loads incredibly quick and has the same expectations from you. It has been four already years since the search engine started to rank quick websites better and today there is even more emphasis on it than ever before, with more and more people browsing from mobile. I believe this will continue to be an important factor.

    Start by testing your website and see how fast it loads. Minimize the number of images and clunky code, don’t use lots of plugins and only embed necessary video. You can quickly minimize the weight of your website by following these tips, but if you want even more help, hire a professional and make use of Google Webmaster Tools.

    CDN Network

    This is how a simple CDN network looks like, with the origin server in South America.

    Not only does your page speed improves the user experience because it minimizes loading times and leads to higher engagement, retention, conversions and lower bounce rates, but it is so important that Google actually developed a tool for it.

    PageSpeed Insights is a set of tools that can help you identify performance best practices for your website and can help you automate the optimization process.

    One of the easiest things to do for page speed improvement is paying for a better hosting plan. Poor hosting is often the main reason behind websites loading slowly. However, it is also the lack of Content Delivery Network (CDN). CDN is easy to explain. Instead of having a server in the US which everybody in the world has to access, this network makes sure the content of a website is delivered quicker to people who are located in other parts of the world via edge servers, so their requests don’t have to “travel” such a long distance.

    content

    Create a good content for your visitors.

    Content Is (still) King

    It is already a cliché, I know, but good content is still the best way to rank high in Google. You want to write really good content with the readers in mind and not for the sake of keywords.

    There is nothing wrong with having keywords every once in a while, but don’t overdo it and, again, think of the reader. Does the article offer value? Is it long enough? Does it get shared a lot on social media? All these are important if you want to rank better in Google.

    “How long should an article be?”

    – is a question that I get a lot. It depends but articles that are shorter than 1.000 words don’t have much value to Google unless they are a hit on social media or you are The New York Times. Moreover, if you are The New York Times, you probably don’t care about ranking anymore. However, if you still need to work on that, keep in mind: Google likes long, informational and useful articles.

    I also think it is a good idea to keep a balance. I can write an article or 4k+ words at any time, but how many people will read the whole piece? Not many. The consequence will be that not many people will share it on social media. For informational articles on blogs I personally believe between 1.500 and 2.500 words is the sweet spot, so a bit shorter than this article. If you can stay in between these two, you are where you should be and are doing well.

    The bottom line of this is that you need to write content that is worth sharing. Offer value, not articles filled with keywords. The guidelines I wrote for you above are good to keep in mind, but quality is still the most important of them. You can write a hit article that is 800 words long and still do better than a 3.000 words article that is written just for the sake of Google. Write for your audience; and do it well!

    Learn To Love FeedTheBot: Optimize Your Website For Google

    If you want to get a quick overview of your website in Google’s eyes, FeedTheBot is one of the best tools out there. You only have to fill in your website and let the software check it up. After a few seconds it will return with a string of errors that your website needs to straighten up.

    Start with the most critical ones, but don’t overlook the other ones. The better you do here, the more Google will appreciate your website.

    It is important to remember that Google is not a person, but a robot. Google doesn’t get a feel of the user experience you offer to your visitors, so the best it can do is to rank your website after a complex set of parametres.

    It can be anything from the number of broken links, usage of robots.txt, JavaScript and CSS usage, sneaky redirects, keyowrd stuffing and so on. If you have dynamic content on your website, it is always a good idea to pay FeedTheBot a visit every once in a while and make sure things are still in check.

    Mobile SEO Action Cheatsheet

    Reading an article like this one and learning what you have to do is the easy part of improving the UX of a web solution – implementing it is the tough part. Now that you know the reasoning behind every and each action to take, we have a cheatsheet for you below, so you can start working on this right away. So, what do you have to do?

    1. Get down and design a great website. Make use of negative space, beautiful colors, and good design practices.
    2. Make sure the navigation is clear, easy to use and doesn’t confuse the user.
    3. Make sure your website is responsive. This helps both the user experience and Google to rank you higher.
    4. Wherever you make use of images or UI elements, try to make use of SVG instead of JPG or PNG
    5. Check how your typography responds to a screen change and ensure your type looks great on all devices.
    6. If you have any forms, check them a couple of times (both the code, but also the experience they give in the form of errors and validation).
    7. Find a good hosting plan. If you can find a CDN server, go for it, although it is a bit more expensive.
    8. After creating the website, use Google Webmaster Tools and PageSpeed Insights to make the website even quicker. Aim for a loading time of under 1 second.
    9. Start creating good content that is useful to your users. Keep doing this all the time.
    10. Use FeedTheBot to check on other errors and solve the most critical ones first, but don’t forget about the other ones.

    Conclusion

    There are two factors you have to please today if you want to have an online presence: the user and Google. I feel we’ve already established that. The good part is that by only following a limited set of tips, you can please both in a short amount of time. If you are about to create a new online presence or think of how to improve your current one, this article should be the starting point for you.

    The entire article can be viewed

    How to Measure Your Home's Square Footage

    Like most aspects of owning or purchasing a house, measuring the square footage of a home is complicated. There’s no established standard for measuring a residential property, and everyone seems to measure square footage differently. But if you get it wrong, it can affect your home’s value.

    There’s no need to be nervous about calculating your home’s square footage, however. Let’s look at how easy it actually is to measure a home’s square footage accurately.

    Gross living area

    For most people, the gross floor area or gross living area (GLA) of a home is what they’re thinking when they hear “square footage.”

    Here’s how to calculate your GLA:

    1. Draw a floor plan of the interior of the home, drawing each floor separately – a simple sketch will do.
    2. Break the home into measurable rectangles (such as bedrooms and hallways).
    3. Don’t include unfinished areas, including patios, porches, and exterior staircases.
    4. Calculate the area of each rectangle by multiplying its length by its width.
    5. The sum of all these rectangles is the square footage of the home.

    What to leave in (and take out of) the square footage

    But, of course, it’s not that simple.

    Many standards do not count basements (even if they’re finished) in overall square footage. Either way, make sure to measure the basement’s square footage for your records – you can still include it in any future property listings.

    Conversely, finished attic space that’s fit for habitation and boasts at least seven feet of clearance should be included in your GLA. The same is true for any additional stories in the house.

    For example, suppose you’re describing a two-story home with a 1,500-square-foot first floor, 1,000-square-foot second floor, and 800-square-foot finished attic. You could list it as 3,300 square feet with 1,000 square feet of unfinished basement and a 600-foot garage. But to describe it as a 4,900-square-foot house would mislead potential buyers about the size, and unfairly boost the property’s value.

    Discrepancies in measurement

    Because square footage is so vital in appraising a home, it’s important to pay close attention to what is being measured.

    Some sellers may include an unfinished basement in their square footage, giving you an inaccurate picture of the livable portion of the home.

    And architects and appraisers often calculate square footage by using exterior walls, which may conflict with a property’s GLA figure.

    Regardless of how you measure your square footage, be transparent when selling, and diligent when buying.

    If you claim that your home is 2,000 square feet based on your builder’s floor plans, and a buyer’s appraiser brings back a figure of 1,600, you could lose the sale or need to lower your price.

    Similarly, as a buyer, make sure to do your research and get an independent square footage to ensure you’re getting what you pay for.

    Find and claim your home on Zillow to see its recorded square footage and to make edits as needed.

    Related:

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